Without apparent concern or empathy for their constituents, Encinitas City Councilpersons, sitting as the San Dieguito Water District Board, on Jan. 20, 2016 approved a whopping, two-year 13 percent residential water rate increase. Worse, they did so without appropriate public input or exploring known viable alternatives.
District water customers were notified of the proposed rate increase and given the right to protest in writing. Unbelievably, none of the protest letters received by the district staff were ever provided to the board; therefore, the elected representatives only heard from the three protestors who testified at the meeting and never saw the concerns and suggestions of the many others, before voting to increase rates.
The board discussed this screw-up, but only directed staff to provide the protest letters for the next round of increases in 2017.
The district uses two major factors in billing property owners. The first is the amount of water that is consumed and the second is the size of the water meter.
Even though all potable water distributed by the district costs the same, the district unfairly sells water at different rates. It also does not charge other categories of customers tiered rates to encourage conservation, like it does residential.
Of the water bill, 25 percent is for services like billing, meter service and reading, etc. and is based upon the size of the meter. The problem is the size of a meter is really a meaningless factor and has no place in the equation. As an example, a 1-inch meter might serve just one dwelling unit or up to fifty-five. Presently, if a single-family property owner has a 1-inch meter, he or she is charged $330 annually for service. Conversely, an apartment owner with the same meter could be charged as little as $6.01 per dwelling unit. Obviously, this is a major proportional problem and unfair.
Incredibly, under this new board-approved rate schedule, many large apartment owners’ meter rates are actually being reduced.
A residential rate structure based on the number of dwelling units, rather than meters was proposed, but ignored by the board.
Water rates under Proposition 218 (State of California Right to Vote legislation) are required to be charged in a fair and equitable manner in proportion to the costs the district incurs in providing the service and product. But in this case, all the consultant had to do is remind the board that all other districts are using the proposed meter standard to set rates and every board member voted to increase rates.
Goodbye “Government by and for the people” — when those we elect can’t be bothered to look beyond the obvious, seek alternatives or stand up for taxpayers/ratepayers’ pocket-books.
Bonde is President of the Encinitas Taxpayers Association